Across from the governor’s office in Legislative Hall, a tent was set up, wires and microphone brought in, and lots of AFSCME green shirts were handed out…

All were there to protest the 8% wage cut. Approximately 400-500 people showed up at the rally to support state labor and to question the necessity of cutting back pay for state workers by 8%,,,

Some of the legislators who crossed the street to show their support, were Debbie Hudson, John Kowalko, J. J. Johnaon, Dori Conner, as well as Mister Pro Union Republican Dick Cathcart.. Others arriving late because of caucuses, were Bethany Hall-Long, Pete Schwartzkoph, Bruce Ennis, and Bob Gilligan, … who missing podium time, mingled with the crowd outside.

The News Journal was there. Their reporter got out of her car, wandered around briefly, talked to two people, got back in their car, and drove off.. I saw her. Great reporting from a great paper.

It was cold, but not too cold. The Big Top tent was supported by to massive poles, but still not enough room underneath was present for the crowd that came… Many buses were on standby, having brought state employees from as far away as a little office outside of New Castle airport on Rt. 57 Churchman’s Road…. The atmosphere was apolitical in nature, but it’s tone was more direct, as is usually the case when one’s incomes are directly on the line…

Obvious attempts at cheerleading were promulgated by Green Shirted AFSCME speakers, with the popular phrase being “No Pay Cuts” erupting around the Green. It was their day in the sun, although perhaps prognostic for state employees, there was no sun shining… If that’s the official celestially-sent omen, then…..tighten the belts, boys and girls….

Despite the darkening skies, warm comaraderie and sense of purpose buoyed kindred spirits…

For despite how we see things in our impersonal bureaucratic kind of way… the bottom line is these people showing up, cannot survive on what they earn now, and are at wits end as to how they can remain solvent after taking an 8% cut….

This is real folks. It’s a real issue focused on survival… It is not about losing a little money here or there…

And that is what the demonstration finally drove home… As a government for the people, of the people, by the people, we must ask ourselves….do we want to put ourselves in the business of hurting people? One state worker from the Emergency Center outside Smyrna, said he wished his co- workers could also be there, but unfortunately they had to go to their second job: you know, the job that is required to keep ahead of today’s expenses… Now this worker had been employed over a decade… Over the period of that length, their income had increased a whopping 4%… Yes, 4%… Why cut back 8% they asked, to a rate less than when they joined? I gave the answer that the 8% was determined by taking the dollar amount needing cut, and dividing it by the number of people working across the state, 8% is what it came to mathmatically. (My realism was not appreciated in the emotionality of this environment).

Even I had to question returning this person’s wage level back to the times of George Herbert Walker Bush… Yes, we all know it was the party of his son who physically ruined everything for us… But still, jumping back twenty years?

Today, getting another source of income does not seem likely. Jobs are hard to find right now… And for those couples who have both partners working for the state, and are now approaching the “medical” years, the benefits for which they left the private sector and join the government and be willing to accept a measly 4% pay increase over the expanse of ten years, simply because of the strength of their benefit package,… are now losing those very benefits when they need them the most…

But then, I said, “everyone is suffering. Private sector employees have been making those sacrifices over the entire span of the Bush years as American jobs got shifted offshore solely because of the Republican tax breaks, and every domestic employer had to trim back his offered benefit package just to stay competitive…..”

“But, they were not working for the people”.. I was then told. “They were working for a business. We, gave our lives to help people, and now, we lose 8%? Is there any other option?””

Just then John Kowalko (D Newark) stood up with a plan to raise additional revenues from fees and corporate taxes, so that no employee would have to take a cut in pay. As expected those words went over well with this crowd… The prime argument being made by John, was that with state employees are taking an 8% pay cut, and they being the largest employee-base in this state, their damping of the state economy, would kill any chance of recovery before it had the opportunity to begin… People losing 8% do not spend. Businesses catering to people losing 8% do not earn revenue. Enamored with his response, Kowalko led a new cheer for “no pay cuts”. We could hear our echo bounce back to us off the windows of the Governor’s office….

Then Dori Conner stepped right up to the microphone….
Her twelth anniversary had just gone alright..
Between her and her great husband Bob,
Thirty seven years, …had gone by.
In their care the teachers, had done all right…..
They were the Sultans…

Next pro union pumped up Dick Cathcart got up to speak.. (he’s a Republican you know)… He laid into the racino industry who just last night in the House, threw enough money at enough Republicans to stymie a bill to raise $55 Million for the state through sports betting.. “Do you know why they wanted the bill dead?” “NO” yelled the crowd back to them. Louder he yelled, “Do YOU know why they wanted the bill dead?” “NO” roared the crowd back.. In his loudest voice cracking under the strain, “DO YOU KNOW WHY THEY WANTED THE BILL DEAD?” The crowd in one voice blasted back: NO!


(Now if ever there was a good reason for gun control, then this just brought it up… For in the heat of that moment, as the collective mindset of all those present slowly grasped the gravity of the insolence that had occurred the night before, had everyone there had access to a firearm, the possibility exists that there would be no Republican left standing by this time tomorrow.)

Next “JJ” Johnson reminded the audience of the march on Washington… Reciting the directives of 1963, he encourage that group to stay organized and work together… “United we stand, Divided we fall”. he led the crowd… Although his analogy was outdated and a little off mark, (the march on Washington which culminated in the ” I Have A Dream” speech was to dramitize the plight of African Americans, not labor ), his enthusiasm was contagious towards fueling the protest of the moment, as many there envisioned the power trip that they would elicit from being part of something as grand as that march on Washington…….

Finally AFSCME spokesman led the final cheers of “No Pay Cuts” and had us direct them toward Markell’s office, and the party slowly matriculated outside. Symbolism not being lost on this observor, it is hereby dutifully noted, that throughout the demonstration, the podium had been facing South: the direction Republican leadership had led our State House and our country over these past 8 years….

Final points occurred on the sidewalk as Legislators who had been tied up in caucus, came over to “pay their dues” or to “show their support…” Bob Gilligan, Bethany Hall-Long, Bruce Ennis, and the newly fired Pete Schwartzkoph, joined John Kowalko on the sidewalk. The official AFSCME sign carriers, proceeded to march across the street and parade up and down past Markell’s window.. I couldn’t help make the casual observation, based on what I was currently seeing, that carrying signs in today’s electonic age, was silly and made one look quite foolish and outdated… What’s the point, anyway, when you can reach thousands with a radio ad? Why look like you belong in the 1890’s parading around Matewan?

Bet you can’t guess who out of these legislators, was the most engaged?


The least? Bethany Hall- Long, I think… who walked ten feet in each direction blankly saying “thanks for your support”… and then returned to huddle with Gilligan, and several staffers…

And, I should say.. Bruce Ennis impressed me…

And as is tradition, I’ll close with a vignette:

Bob Gilligan, when he heard about Pete’s firing, came up and offered this observation…

“Look Pete, not only is what they did, stupid…. but it was “fucking” stupid….”

Damn! I love Democrats… Gone now are those Copelandish aphorisms of ominously finding ourselves “stepping into a big pile of doo doo”.. At least we’re hearing real truth for a change… Even if it gets interpreted by Pete’s darling grandson as being “truckin’ stupid….”

(inside joke)